Thursday, July 18, 2024

Michigan football sign-stealing probe began after firm obtained video from school computers, per reports

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Michigan vs Florida State

The investigation into illegal scouting and sign stealing at Michigan began when an outside investigative firm approached the NCAA with files and video from computer drives maintained by the university, The Washington Post reports. The report, which comes from anonymous sources, alleges that multiple Michigan coaches and staff members had access to these files. 

The university has already suspended analyst Connor Stalions after he bought tickets for more than 30 games at 12 of the possible 13 Big Ten stadiums and four tickets to games featuring out-of-conference College Football Playoff contenders over a three-year period, according to ESPN.

The Post’s anonymous sources say the firm presented a schedule to the NCAA, detailing Michigan’s planned travel for sign-stealing for the rest of the year. The alleged schedule featured a budget of around $15,000 with scouts attending more than 40 games played by 10 opponents. Ohio State led the way with as many as eight trips and more than $3,000 budged for travel and tickets. Potential College Football Playoff opponent Georgia was next with four or five games scheduled at a total of around $3,000. 

New evidence of the magnitude alleged by the Post’s report would certainly broaden the scope of the NCAA’s investigation beyond just Stalions and could implicate several other members of the Michigan staff. 

The university, Big Ten and NCAA have all declined to comment on the matter, The Post reports.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has denied knowledge of any attempt to steal opponent signs and will cooperate with the NCAA investigation, he said in a statement. Harbaugh is already embroiled in a battle with the NCAA over separate Level II violations for which he is accused misleading investigators.

At issue is NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1: “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.” Sign-stealing itself is not technically against the rules unless it involves electronic equipment to record and inform players or coaches of signals during games. Teams are given access to a great deal of film in advance of matchups in order to scout the on-field football product. 

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